Constructivism

1. About constructivism

Constructivism differs from other theories on education such as behavioralism in suggesting that learning is a process, where students take an active part. The proponents of constructivism view this theory as useful for the educational settings, where original thinking and own understanding is encouraged. The theory is opposed to the traditional view of learning as an outcome of instruction. Per constructivists, people learn by experience, solving real-world problems, and reflection. Studying this way, learners are not afraid to make own knowledge and differ from others. Also, they learn to solve problems and work with others. The role of the teacher is to encourage dialogue and reflection. The proponents of constructivism include the theory founders Lev Vygotsky, Jerome Bruner, and David Ausubel.

Constructivism has various schools of thoughts with different views on learning. Radical constructivism claims that knowledge is situated in the minds of students. Social constructivism argues the opposite, that society and culture have a large influence on learning. Per D’Angelo, Touchman, & Douglas, main learning types are as follows: cases, discovery learning, inquiries, problem solving, and the learning that takes place within projects. Also, teachers are not responsible for the learning outcomes. Instead, they create a favorable environment, where students can experiment and invent something new. Progress can be evaluated with asking questions, group discussions, and checklists.

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According to Yilmaz, constructivism allows for the coexistence of different opinions. This is because every student can claim that his understanding is true, because of his unique circumstances. Also, the past and new knowledge are linked, and new knowledge is subjective. 

Per D’Angelo et al., constructivism follows the model of interaction between individuals and their historical and cultural context. Students make connections by themselves, instead of being told how to incorporate new facts into what they already know. Any student can learn because of staying interested in the subject and developing curiosity. Questions are encouraged as they promote the interest of students. 

The sources of knowledge are social and psychological ones. Knowledge is shaped by the things like values, ideologies, and politics. Also, there are psychological sources such as individual persuasions. When individuals agree about something, this becomes formal knowledge. The process is complex, and individuals need to assimilate new knowledge with old information and figure how to respond to new learning.

Yilmas argues that constructivism has numerous advantages. First, students can relax about learning, considering that it can be changed and revised. Second, they work on developing own skills as they apply knowledge personally. Third, they can test out new concepts in familiar settings. This is an ongoing process of interactions between society, the knowledge, and self. 

Question: Is constructivism useful only for some subjects where experiments and group interactions are possible, and then the traditional perspective is better for some classes like math?

2. The scene from the movie Pride and prejudice (2005)

The scene: Elizabeth (one of the five daughters in a poor family in England) is interacting with a man he likes and some women at a gathering in a private house. She expresses very different opinions from everyone else’s. Also, unlike others, she is not acting to please and form a favorable opinion about herself. This is most obvious when she asks Darcy about his pride. By actually asking a question rather than saying that Darcy is a proud man, Liz prompts him to reflect and question his attitude. Darcy is opinionated about how women should act in the presence of men. According to him, certain actions are meant to elicit a response. This conversation occurs while Elizabeth is walking arm in arm with another woman, a friend of Darcy.

Elizabeth has a unique point of view in this situation. She believes that Darcy is proud and holds certain opinions about women. Meanwhile, Darcy understands her situation, that she is from a poor family and does not know “proper” manners. This is why he does not prove her wrong. He only responds in kind, with some sarcasm and explaining his own thoughts and actions. In fact, Elizabeth has very different views from Darcy and his friends, because she formed her opinions during her previous encounters with the nobility. For example, at a family dinner with Mr. Collins, she hears Mr. Collins say how a woman should always be agreeable and graceful.

On the other hand, Darcy is from an aristocratic background, where noble speaking and acting is expected. This places him in a position where he expects a woman to always have a proper response. But Liz challenges him when she asks if he is proud in believing that forming a bad opinion about someone cannot be reversed. Eventually, Darcy changes as he accepts the views of Elizabeth as humble.

The scene’s analysis yields an understanding about the learning process and how people create new knowledge and change their believes. Constructivism is a useful perspective for interpreting similar situations. This is because its main premise is that someone’s knowledge is not stable and is an outcome of the things that they pick up in their cultural setting. Also, the views expressed by the characters of the movie were prevalent during the early XIXth century England (based on the novel by Jane Austin). 

As constructivists would argue, Liz and Darcy change as they interact with each other. Liz always asks questions because she is curious by nature and likes to read and interact. In response to her questions, Darcy presents new information that helps Liz to change own old-fashioned views. For example, in another scene, she agrees to play the piano on request by an aunt of Darcy. This way Liz agrees that she does not have to be great at playing the piano in order to play for others. Since Darcy also asks questions, they become a couple. They are similar and open to change.

Yet another insight from analyzing the scene is that some people are similar and yet different from their contemporaries. In the past, it was commonly believed that women should do what is best for their family and respond to courtship (Liz did not do this), that women should be sociable (Liz preferred to read and play the piano), and that women did not need to “test” the character of men before marrying them (men could do this though). This perspective challenges what people think about society and the people from another class. Not all the rick people are snobs and not all the poor people have bad manners. In fact, the poor can learn good manners from others. Likewise, the rich can understand and overcome own prejudices. It is best achieved in an interactive situation like a dialogue, as was in the case of Liz and Darcy. In other words, they become closer and more similar as they interacted about what they know and why they think what they think. Also, they do not argue, and conflicts appear from strong convictions.

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